microchipping employees is a bad idea

Microchipping Employees is a No-good, Horrible and Terrible Idea

#7 | A Wisconsin company made it possible for their workers to throw away their employee ID cards, forget all their passwords, make copies and get food from a vending machine in a surprisingly convenient way. The magic solution? A small medical procedure actually – employees were given a choice to receive a tiny microchip under their skin. Its called “microchipping” and its a no-good, horrible and terrible idea.  I explain why, in detail, in this episode. Listen in and be sure to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.

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The Jim Stroud Podcast explores the future of life itself by examining emerging technology,  the changing world of work, cultural trends and everything in between.

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Over the past decade, Jim Stroud has built an expertise in sourcing and recruiting strategy, public speaking, lead generation, video production, podcasting, online research, competitive intelligence, online community management and training. He has consulted for such companies as Microsoft, Google, MCI, Siemens, Bernard Hodes Group and a host of startup companies. During his tenure with Randstad Sourceright, he alleviated the recruitment headaches of their clients worldwide as their Global Head of Sourcing and Recruiting Strategy. His career highlights can be viewed on his website at www.JimStroud.com.

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A Wisconsin company made it possible for their workers to throw away their employee ID cards, forget all their passwords, make copies and get food from a vending machine in a surprisingly convenient way. The magic solution? A small medical procedure actually – employees were given a choice to receive a tiny microchip under their skin.

The company’s name is Three Square Market and 50 of their 80 employees volunteered to be microchipped preferring convenience over privacy concerns and so far, there have been no complaints. So, is microchipping employees a good thing? I say no! And I will list reasons why companies should avoid this practice like the plague, after this word from our sponsor.


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Sorry about that guys. Now, where was I?

Three Square Market is not the only company to use microchips on its employees; Epicenter which provides workspace for more than 300 digital companies in Stockholm, Sweden, has been implanting its employees and people who use its workspaces for years. A UK-based company called BioTeq has already given 150 UK workers implants and Biohax, a Sweden-based company is in discussion with several British legal and financial firms to get them on the cyborg bandwagon.

Obviously with this type of technology there are concerns but, some people who have been microchipped have dismissed them. Here are 2 quotes from a CNBC article.

QUOTE #1: – “The biggest benefit I think is convenience,” said Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and CEO of Epicenter. As a demonstration, he unlocks a door by merely waving near it. “It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.” END QUOTE #1

And this is quote #2…

QUOTE: Sandra Haglof, 25, who works for Eventomatic, an events company that works with Epicenter, has had three piercings before, and her left hand barely shakes as Osterlund injects the small chip. “I want to be part of the future,” she laughs. END QUOTE

I could quote from several articles but the basic argument for microchipping employees is “convenience” and I’m sorry, that is not compelling enough for my endorsement of this procedure. I think the disadvantages far outweigh the benefits.  Let me count the ways…

  1. technology designed for one purpose may later be used for another. A microchip implanted today to allow for easy building access and payments could, in theory, be used later in more invasive ways: to track the length of employees’ bathroom or lunch breaks, for instance, without their consent or even their knowledge.
  2. …it opens the door to potential complications that could lead to lawsuits for the company. Think about personal privacy complaints; security lapses; workers’ compensation claims should the chips cause medical issues. Would employers be financially responsible if the chip affected an employee’s health? And what if that employee goes to another company that requires a microchip and that person gets sick some time later. Who is responsible for that health issue? The first company who microchipped them or the current one? And while that is tied up in court, will the employee recover or suffer until their demise?
  3. …religious accommodations should a company require chipping. Some Christians may see chipping as the “mark of the beast” discussed in the book of revelation and may reject the idea of working for your company on that basis alone.  Christianity is a major religion so, requiring microchipping could severely hamper your recruiting efforts.
  4. …what happens to the chip when an employee leaves? Who owns the data then? If it belongs to the company, what about any personal information that may have been collected during its use?  Would the employee have the right to restrict access to it once gone? Could that data be sold to a third party? …and of course, there are security concerns. Gary Davis is the Chief Consumer Security Evangelist for McAfee, is a computer security company based in Santa Clara, Calif. He said in a SHRM Online interview, QUOTE “I could see bad actors trying several techniques to attack the chip itself or the data that is transmitted to and from the chip.” END QUOTE He goes on to say…  QUOTE “The biggest risks [with RFID] are … eavesdropping, data corruption or modification, and interception attacks.” END QUOTE All of that to say, at present, its too easy to hack those things.

And even as I make my case against microchipping employees, I know there are still some who will do it anyway. Perhaps they will call me a luddite, someone who fears new and disruptive technologies. Trust me, I’m not. I can just see the big picture on this and it doesn’t bode well for a person’s individual privacy. The chance of exploitation is just too great and the argument of its more convenient is just not convincing. I mean, I could see someone arguing for microchipping employees the same way people have argued for driverless cars: the adoption of the technology could reduce accidents by minimising human error. Well, if microchipping employees can be shown to have substantial safety benefits, and the process of implanting (and removing) microchips can be undertaken in a safe, quick, painless and unobtrusive way – with proper measures to protect privacy – then I imagine a legal path to requiring the microchipping of employees being made.

Of course, all of this could be a moot issue because of State Senator Becky Harris who introduced Senate Bill 109 would make it a Class C felony to require someone to be implanted with a radio frequency identifier aka microchip. Its not a law yet. We’ll see how it goes.

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